Ardbog day with WhiskyBrother and Ardbeg

A bit late, but better late than never, is my write-up on the Ardbeg day tasting held by WhiskyBrother.  This was an event that sold out very quickly, especially once one read which Ardbeg whiskies we would be tasting, as it would be a vertical tasting of six Ardbegs’. The venue for the gathering of us Ardbeggians for this auspicious event was the Pimento bistro in Illovo.

Welcoming us to the event was Marc Pendlebury, the “Chief Ardbeggian Officer” for the evening, who was looking very spiffy in his Ardbog day t-shirt. You were greeted with an Ardbeg 10YO as a welcome drink and as you wound your way to a seat, you were greeted to the sight of a chained up Ardbeg 10YO, the whiskies for the tasting and all the empty glasses lined up and waiting to receive the ‘water of life’.

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The whiskies in our tasting line up were:

  • Blasda – 40% ABV
  • Still Young – 56.2% ABV
  • Almost There – 54.1% ABV
  • Galileo – 49% ABV
  • Corryvreckan – 57.1% ABV
  • Supernova 2010 – 60.1% ABV

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But first they had to be poured into the eagerly waiting glasses. This sacred duty fell to Chief Ardbeggian Officer Marc to fulfil and to ensure that each Ardbeggian got their fair share.

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Once all poured and distributed the tasting began, with Marc leading the tasting and sharing with us anecdotes, stories and the history of Ardbeg. Soon the room was filled with the usual murmurs and mutterings of a tasting, which naturally steadily increased in volume as each dram was tasted and savoured.

Once all whiskies were tasted, relished, discussed and appreciated some more it was time for us to reveal which ones we enjoyed the most and which particular one was our favourite (for the evening at least). This was an almost impossible task for me as I thought they were all good and that each one had its own set of characteristics and peculiarities that made them interesting and delicious.

Anyway, after much deliberation I felt that my top Ardbeg, from the line up for that evening, was the Corryvreckan. It was very closely (extremely closely actually) followed by the Supernova 2010, and then by the Almost There and the Galileo.

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This really was an excellent evening with special tasting that I believe to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us (it certainly was for me). A huge thank you to Marc of WhiskyBrother for arranging and putting together such a wonderful and extraordinary tasting of Ardbeg.

So here’s to Ardbeg Day 2014 in South Africa. May it be even bigger, better and bolder!


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Ardbeg day 2013 is Ardbog day

The time is very near for that special day each year that Ardbeggians celebrate – Ardbeg Day! For this year it is to be known as Ardbog day – 1st June 2013.

And in celebration for this day The Smoky Dram now sports a fetching Ardbeg green link colour scheme.

Ardbeg’s Ardbog Day

ArdbogDay_The Smoky Dram

Rai Banbury, senior brands manager, says, “The Islay Ardbeg Festival has become a key date in the calendar of malt whisky lovers worldwide. Every year Ardbeg creates a unique and fun way for our Ardbeg fans to celebrate Ardbeg and the much anticipated limited edition release.” This latest limited edition release is called Ardbog and will be released on ‘Ardbog Day’.

The name Ardbog was chosen to highlight the peat bogs of Ardbeg’s island home Islay and the part they play in the whisky making process. The unique peat bogs contain highly aromatic plants that when used to dry malted barley gives Ardbeg whiskies their distinctive smoky flavour.

Ardbog has deep, enticing waves of pecan nuts, salty toffee & caramels, fudge, leather and a distinct whiff of herbs, lavender and violets. The smoke is soft and aromatic, and is interwoven with savoury notes, like Iberico ham (de bellota) and olives.

South Africa’s Ardbog Day and first African Ardbeg Embassy

We all dig PEAT! South Africa will celebrate all things peaty with the launch of the first African Ardbeg Embassy, Wild About Whisky, on world Ardbog day. This will be an opportunity for current and future Ardbeggians to comPEAT in some uniquely Ardbeg activities. The shinDIG will begin with an Ardbeg procession starting on main road at the Cricket oval (in Dullstroom) at 12:00. Do not rePEAT this as there are only 100 tickets available – which sadly are all Sold Out!

Unfortunately the other Ardbeg day event in South Africa (of which I know) is also Sold Out! This event is being hosted in Johannesburg by WhiskyBrother Shop and this event promises Ardbeg shenanigans and a chance to sample some very special Ardbeg drams. I was very fortunate to book in time for this and shall report on the special drams and any shenanigans that may happen with photographic evidence where possible.

I find it encouraging that both South African events sold out so quickly, both virtually within only a couple of days from the announcements being made by the respective hosts. The other promising point is the launch of first African Ardbeg Embassy. Hopefully this will result in more exposure for Ardbeg in South Africa and more importantly enable more Ardbeg whisky expressions to make its way to SA! Currently the only expression commercially available here the Ardbeg 10YO.


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Ardbeg 10yo

My 10th review (and 20th post)! This is to be the last, for now at least, review of a 10 year old whisky. Since this is The Smoky Dram and I have a slight (so slight it is hardly noticeable) bias towards the Islay malts, this review will be on the Ardbeg 10. And just in time for Ardbeg day too! Although this year it is called Ardbog day.

Ardbeg_10_The Smoky Dram

Whisky: Ardbeg 10, 46% ABV (Cost around R580)

Region: Islay, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 Years

Ardbeg prides itself on being the ‘Ultimate Islay Malt Whisky’. Established in 1815, Ardbeg is revered around the world as one of the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay malts. Despite this heavy peaty smokiness, Ardbeg is renowned for its delicious sweetness, a phenomenon that has affectionately become known as ‘the peaty paradox’.

Ardbeg is certainly one of the peatiest whiskies around and that is also available in South Africa. In 2008 it was awarded World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and in 2010 it was awarded Gold (Best in Class) in the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). It also features fairly often as a Sub Category Winner in the World Whisky Awards (for Peated Islay under 12 YO).

For the fans of Ardbeg they can join The Ardbeg Committee. It’s a quirky fact that Islay, with a population of just 3000, has more than 140 Committees, with the biggest one of all being The Ardbeg Committee (with a worldwide membership of over 50,000). The members of this committee, no matter how near or far, share a common purpose; to celebrate the re-awakening of Ardbeg, spread the word and dispense drams to those deprived of knowledge of this untamed spirit.

Colour: Pale straw to pale gold.

Nose: A wonderfully intense peat smoked nose, but a clean fruity peaty smoke that is followed by smoky citrus fruits (limes and lemons), smouldered fish and bacon, almonds, salt, brine and hints of dark chocolate. Has a lovely sea air minerality to it, as if you walked by the harbour or taken a stroll on Islay. Complex and sophisticated,

Palate: Zesty citrus burst on tip of tongue (lovely spicy burn) with pepper, cinnamon, citrus fruits (but smoky), smoked meats savouriness with hints of sweetness (apple orchards), briny. Sharp with initial flash of peat that leaves a beautiful smokiness at the back of your mouth. Palate is clean and crisp and pretty much continues what you got on the nose. Strikingly balanced with a smooth mouth feel.

Body: Full bodied with very many thick and lovely legs

Finish: Sweet spiciness that is tongue tingling with a lingering smokiness at the back of it that is very long. It lingers long after you have finished it.

Overall: Another one of those either you love it or hate it kind of drams with little to no middle ground. This is a powerful yet smooth peated dram with huge smoke that also has an underlying sweetness to it. Just begs for more and a fantastic dram for me.


My Score: 88

Islay flashback

I recently read a blog post on ScotchBlog about their pilgrimage to Lagavulin. It reminded me of my trip to Scotland and Islay that I undertook in July 2011. This trip was before my current whisky passion, which was unfortunate for me but not so for my wife.

Then there was a very informative Twit conversation between ScotchBlog (@scotchblog), WhiskyBrother (@WhiskyBrother) and myself (@TheSmokyDram), with maybe just a wee bit TMI from WhiskyBrother.

All this helped me have a little Islay flashback. However, unlike the weather ScotchBlog had, where “the sun shone down gloriously from a pristine blue sky”, the weather I had been decidedly more overcast, windy and misty (as my two photos below will show) – perfect to have a dram or two to steel yourself for the next walk outside.

Back to the Twit conversation and the one question that came up was around if you could return to your favourite whisky destination/place/memory. For me the answer was not so easy. Once the various voices and personalities battled it out in my head, two remained victorious as my favourite of favourite places on Islay. The first was the Whisky Distillery that got me started on my whisky passion and will always hold a special place in my collection, Laphroaig:

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This was followed very closely by the other distillery that brings back many a great memories for me, Ardbeg, with their fiery peaty whiskies:

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These pictures and fond memories now make me want to return, and I know that I will one day return to that wonderful spiritual home many of us call Islay.

What are your memories of Islay? Let me know in comments below.


 The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog